I find writing this article both cathartic and timely, as on the day of writing this, a news story on ‘Birth Trauma’ popped up on my news feed.

In 2019 I became a first-time mother to my son, Jacob.  By ‘normal’ standards I’d endured a fairly short, fifteen-hour labour. But, by far from normal standards, I lost a significant amount of blood. I could tell that things hadn’t gone to plan when I realised as there were more medical staff around than previously and measures were taken to stop the bleeding, which luckily worked.

Jacob was born and was quickly given to me, but after struggling to begin breast feeding he screamed and cried. I felt enormous guilt and failure for asking a midwife for a bottle to feed my baby. I was kept in hospital and was expected to look after my newborn, whilst simultaneously receiving blood transfusions. It all felt unreal and I didn’t feel love at first sight.

After leaving hospital, it took me six months to feel physically well, but much longer to adjust mentally. An appointment was made by my health visitor for a psychiatric assessment for postnatal depression.

When I reached the Psychiatric Ward, just the name made me feel like I was abnormal and unfit to be a mother.

I sat in a chair as a serious-looking doctor and an ‘observer’ carried out a tick-box exercise without an ounce of empathy. The doctor went on to ask me about my husband and his job, which felt irrelevant to the conversation. I politely said I wouldn’t answer those questions and left.

The experience had left me determined that I would give ‘motherhood’ my best while acknowledging I wouldn’t be perfect – but what mother is?

When Covid came along, Jacob had just turned one. While many people across the world experienced social isolation from lockdown, I’d already been living with my own isolation even when surrounded by people. Despite going to ‘Mother and Baby’ activities three times a week, I was experiencing mental isolation, adjusting to having a baby as my body and mind recovered.

But, as the moods of many were diminishing during Covid, mine actually improved as me and Jacob quickly bonded over long walks and play park visits, cake in the garden and den-building. His vocabulary improved dramatically as I chatted away to him, or read him books. Now, Jacob doesn’t stop talking so it must have done him some good!

I’ve suffered anxieties for a number of years, and I think the transition into motherhood made this more difficult and went hand-in-hand with a difficult birth. However, Jacob is now five and I also have a two-year old daughter! The second time around was a beautiful breeze and a huge relief.

To cope with my anxieties, I have found remedies which work for me, such as gardening, going to the gym, burning incense and trying to have time out of the house as much as possible – probably a result of Covid lockdown restrictions. I also try to keep ‘my time’ sacred by taking a day out by myself once a month to do what I feel like, whether it’s going to the hairdressers, or walking through the park with a coffee.

Last year I took part in the ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ exhibition at Summerhall in Edinburgh which showcases the artworks of anyone who has lived experience of mental health issues.

I’m proud to say that I have transformed my postnatal anxieties into something tangible and positive.

I want to demonstrate that everyone has a chance to reclaim themselves after a trauma and learn some things along the way.

In the future, I hope mothers, and especially first-time mothers, receive the empathy, understanding and help they need and that alternatives to the ‘norm’ are always offered without judgement, because it’s okay to be a little alternative at times.

Postnatal and Perinatal Mental Health

Around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth.

Find out more